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Trash talk and dumping diatribe

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
October 9, 2003


"We are itinerant polluters of our countryside, shedding litter like loose hairs wherever we go." — Nan Fairbrother

I have a new observation to share with readers; it came to me while considering the ease in which humans trash the planet. Sitting in my office, surrounded by the clutter of an accumulated life, the epiphany struck, Homo Sapien sapien is the only species that can be defined as "one that wastes." Everything we touch turns to garbage. From fashion to fusion, sooner or later everything gets discarded.

The race is over. Ladies and gentlemen, we are now the Human Waste.

Having learned early in our domestication the importance of sweeping things under the proverbial rug, humans continue to foul the nest of their existence, believing there will always be someone to take out the trash. Sadly this allows us to create ever- increasing amounts of more trash, even toxic trash. And when one dumping ground is full, we move on to the next, and then the next, and then the next.

Nature in, garbage out.

The dark side of affluence is the destruction of ecological systems. Every stage of industry produces it's own form of waste. The disposal of solid waste comes at an ecological cost. Canyons are filled with mountains of human refuse, trash scattered to the ends of the earth, and "things" left to rot and rust, every one a reminder of our ravenous ethic of disregard.

This is the legacy of our species.

Unwilling to live within in our means humans have struggled to make the world a safer, more comfortable, place in which to continue our pursuit of having it all. Ironically we have achieved the exact opposite. As we rip resources from the ground, and fell trees by the billon, ecological balance is sacrificed to Hummers and Happy Meals. Consume and entomb is a fitting mantra for the consumption monkeys we have become.

Ours is a disposable society. Thankfully the majority of garbage produced and sold in the name of economic freedom finds it's way into the solid waste management industry, where it is recycled into other consumer products, or buried in landfills. Like time capsules, dumping grounds are purposely placed pollution. All of us contribute, how can we not?

Considering the population of California, it is truly remarkable we are not buried in our own refuse. Walk into any department store, or better yet, Costco, and what you see will soon require disposal. An ever-increasing level of consumption, leaves room for nothing else. The economic engine that is western capitalism depends on a constant commercial class, which in turn is completely dependent on an unending supply of disposable goods. The question is what is the responsible way to dispose of the stuff you had to have.

Most of curb it, and trust the system to take it as far away as possible. We even sort out recyclables by class, and treat yard waste like the mulch it is. Some of us even try to reduce the amount of waste being produced by over consumptive lifestyles. For the most part Californians have gotten with the program and our quality of life is better for it.

Notice how I said "For the most part?"

What is up with those among us who feel they have the right to dump the residuals of their lives along the side of a road? You know the type, people who feel no sense of shame when dumping an old sofa, construction materials, dead appliances, and general household garbage in a place unable to handle such an intrusion. There is a reason illegal dumping is a crime, yet still people do it as if the act itself did not endanger the community.

Just as throwing cigarette butts and Big Mac wrappers out the car window is chronically stupid, so is dumping your stuff for others to deal with. If you witness someone doing it grab their license number and report the losers. Trashing our environment should be treated like the crime it is.

Prompting this column was a conversation with a reader who asked that I consider the cost of illegal dumping has on others. Dan, a resident of Leucadia shared with me the story of watching an illegal dumping on Piraeus Ave. encourage similar action. Realizing the problem was escalating, Dan took the time and effort to haul the garbage away and pay the tipping fees at the Mira Mar landfill. He took pictures.

Thank you Dan for being a Green Samaritan.

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